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New SA working with children screening obligations – a quick guide

From 1 July 2019, working with children checks will be subject to a new statutory regime under the Child Safety (Prohibited Persons) Act 2016. The checks will be issued by a central assessment unit in the Department of Human Services (DHS), their status will be continuously monitored and they will be current for a 5 year period.

The University’s obligations to ensure that all personnel (whether a paid employee, a contractor or a volunteer) have valid working with children checks will be much the same. However, the new law imposes significant fines if personnel are allowed to work with children without a valid clearance.

Individuals who employ someone without a valid check may be fined up to $20k. The University may be fined up to $50k.

So that you can prepare for this transition – and ensure that you are getting it right – here’s a quick guide to how the new screening requirements will affect the University.

Who needs a DHS working with children clearance?

DHS clearances are required for any person in a prescribed position. This is defined in the new Act as “…a person who works, or is likely to work, with children”.

If you are a staff member, contractor or volunteer who is working with or providing services to children or young people under 18, or you are supervising someone who is, then you need a clearance.

Services provided to children and young people under 18 include education services (in early childhood, primary or secondary contexts only); health services; coaching or tuition services for children; accommodation or residential services. Tertiary education has been excluded from the definition of education services.

This does not mean that anything that happens in a tertiary institution is exempt, only that provision of services toward the fulfilment of a tertiary education program is not considered child-related work.

University personnel will need a clearance if they are regularly assigned to work with young people who are under 18 or with children.

Screening for all South Australian volunteers is provided free of charge. A fee applies to all employees (even if they have been cleared as a volunteer elsewhere).

Who does not need a clearance?

Tertiary education services

Tertiary education services are expressly excluded from the definition of education services by the Child Safety (Prohibited Person) Regulations 2019.

This means that, even though there may be one or two students in your first year class who are under 18, you will not need a clearance under the Scheme. Local areas may determine that a working with children check is an appropriate risk management strategy in an operational context, however.

No contact or incidental contact with children

Any service or activity in the course of which contact with children occurs incidentally or would not reasonably be expected to occur is not considered to be child-related work. So personnel who mostly work on campus and mostly engage with students over 18 but may occasionally encounter young people under 18 do not need a DHS clearance.

Occasional work with children (no more than 7 days per calendar year)

A clearance is not required if there are reasonable grounds to believe that that an employee will not work with young people under 18 on more than 7 days in a calendar year. Previously, a 10 day period applied.

Under the new scheme, any personnel who work with children or young people on more than 7 days during the year must have a valid clearance.

The onus in on the person (and their supervisor) to monitor the frequency of engagement with children and young people under 18 and to keep records of any University authorised or programed engagement with under 18s. This is important because the onus of proof of compliance with the law would rest with the University.

An individual responsible could be subject to a $20k fine if the threshold is exceeded.

The University could be subject to a $50k fine.

Reporting children at risk of harm

Personnel in prescribed positions, and those who are directly supervising personnel in those positions, have obligations to report children at risk of harm via the Child Abuse Report Line (CARL): 13 14 78.

“Mandatory reporting” training for people working with children and young people under 18 will be ongoing.

Updated University policy and procedures

Stay tuned for a new Child Safe Environment Policy and revised Screening Procedures (issued under the Recruitment Policy).

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